By: Matthew Striplen
If video game genres were food, RPGs would definitely be steak. They’re hearty, meaty and when done well provide an unforgettable experience. In Atlus’ updated remake of the 2011 game, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker offers a truly expansive game. If you’ve already worked your way through the original DS game, Record Breaker provides a completely new adventure, as well as the option to skip the original story. Strap yourself in, because we’re going on a wild, demon-filled ride.
Since Record Breaker is a tactical turned-based RPG, controls are pretty simple. Just about everything that needs to be done can be accessed on a menu, grid, etc. There are no action sequences that require quick reflexes or snappy controls.
A nice touch is the inclusion of a fast-forward button for cut scenes. If you decide to replay a section of the game, skipping through old dialogue saves a ton of time. Though simple, Record Breaker‘s controls prove very intuitive.
Only a handful changes have been made to Record Breaker from the original. An all-new opening cut scene, featuring great 3D graphics, acts as a new centerpiece. The in-game sprites look like they’ve been cleaned up a bit as well, as do the story cut scenes. Other than these minor changes, Record Breaker looks like its predecessor, not that that’s a bad thing. The new adventure includes more animated and 3D cut scenes, all of which look great.
On the other hand, far more changes have been made in the sound department, most notably full voice acting for the entire game. This inclusion adds another level of immersion, as the characters feel much more fleshed out. The acting itself is consistently good and, more importantly, believable. Major props to the entire cast.
The musical score remains mostly unchanged, but that’s not bad, either. The second adventure features tons of new tracks, which are played on a much improved sound engine, making the game sound like a 3DS game instead of a DS.
Record Breaker is an absolute behemoth of a game, packing two entire adventures in one. Considering the original game alone takes approximately 50-60 hours, you will have more than enough to do, especially given the second quest. Let’s begin with the original: the fight against the Septentriones.
Our game unfolds with the protagonist finishing up high school exams with his friend, Daichi, a rather goofy guy. He excitedly installs a mysterious app on your phone called Nicaea, which shows pictures of how your friends will die. Pretty weird, right? Ultimately, Nicaea proves to be the greatest tool in your quest.
Suddenly, the entire world is invaded by the destructive Septentriones, which are accompanied by hordes of demons. As the world plunges into darkness, it’s up to you and your friends to rid the world of evil and save the human race.
Nicaea allows registered users to summon demons and, if they have enough skill, control them. If someone fails to defeat the summoned demons, they run wild, killing anything in their path. Thus, you, Daichi and many new friends become demon tamers and set out on a quest to figure out what caused this massive destruction.
As you might have guessed, Record Breaker focuses intensely on the story, which splits the experience into distinct story and combat segments. However, the story segments are far from set in stone. One of the most important mechanics in the game is the element of time.
After a scene or battle has been completed, the player may choose from any number of new scenes or battles. Any scene of battle with a clock symbol next to it takes exactly 30 in-game minutes to complete. Certain important story events only take place at specific times, so be sure not to miss your appointments.
Also, if you skip the story sections, distinguishing between core events and side events becomes impossible, so pay attention! Missing appointments can have negative repercussions, such as key characters dying, or receiving a “bad” ending at the game’s conclusion.
Combat places up to four character/demon teams on an isometric grid. Each character can take a maximum of two tamed demons into battle to combat other demon teams. Demons come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Most demons possess an affinity for some type of elemental attack and are susceptible to another, similar to Pokémon, though their affinities and weaknesses aren’t always clear.
Nicaea acts as the menu between scenes, facilitating a multitude of key functions, like team creation, demon auctions and demon fusions, just to name the most important features. Team creation pairs characters with any demon of your choosing, along with setting special moves and abilities.
The demon auction allows for purchase of new demons, provided you can outbid the competition, while demon fusion takes two currently owned demons and fuses them into something entirely new. This new demon becomes a different type from its “parents,” but it inherits skills and moves of your choosing.
Although this sounds complicated, and it definitely is, Record Breaker deserves praise for providing accessible tutorials. A major complaint with games, especially RPGs, is that they throw too much information at the gamer at once. Record Breaker spreads it out, giving players time to use each piece in a practical situation before introducing something new. This way of easing the player into the game should even prevent RPG newcomers from feeling overwhelmed.
Moving on, the second adventure begins with a recap of the major events in the first game before thrusting the protagonist into a world parallel to the original. Much remains unchanged, but a handful of key plot elements have been altered.
This time, the invading Septentriones are nowhere to be found, instead replaced by the similarly evil Triangulums. The world plunges yet again into chaos as they wreak havoc upon Japan and the entire world.
Gameplay remains relatively unchanged, still being split into the distinct story and combat segments. The time mechanic retains its pivotal role in the game as well. This time, players start with many more skills and much more powerful demons. Despite the power boost, this timeline proves to be an even bigger challenge. Expect to die, quite a few times.
On the subject of difficulty, Record Breaker features two settings: Blessed and Apocalyptic. If you thought Blessed was hard, don’t even think about attempting Apocalyptic. This mode will push the most seasoned RPG gamers to the limit.
Even with Record Breaker‘s massive length, it still sports a fair amount of replay value. The time function make exploring every possible outcome impossible on a single playthrough. Plus, the inclusion of multiple endings for both timelines is sure to pique the interest of many.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker offers a truly expansive and intense gaming adventure. The complex combat system, time mechanic, story and demon selection ensures that the player always has choices to consider.
That being said, information is presented in such a way that players should be able to absorb just about everything. Although the Triangulum arc is superior on a technical level, the soul of the game remains the same. If you enjoyed the original and just want more, Record Breaker is perfect for you. In the end, it provides an incredibly in-depth and polished product.